My Hat.

The following was written last May and then apparently forgotten about. I still wear my hat, not so much in the Summer heat, but when I’m feeling like I need reminded of why I’m doing what I’m doing.

If bills are piling up and I’ve got sick kids home from school and I’m wondering for the fifth time that day when I’m finally going to get a chance to sit down and write instead of working until I collapse into bed.

Well, that’s when I put on my hat, and the world changes.

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I’ve got this hat. To be honest, it’s the hat I’ve always wanted. When watching the old Rawhide reruns on Nickleodeon on my Dad’s then-girlfriend-now-wife’s floor as a youngster and seeing Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates and then in later years in his Spaghetti Westerns, he was wearing pretty much this kind of hat. Similar to Kleenex and Band-Aid becoming common names instead of brand names, this style is known as Akubra here in Oz.

I bought a knock-off version of an Akubra because of its coolness and foldability quite a while ago and sent it to Steamboat for my friend Willis’s wedding/Christmas/too-late-for-any-occasion-so-here, and was slightly jealous. I knew he’d love it, because I loved it, but it was hard to let it go.Now, I’ve finally got my hat.

It was probably only a day or so after I’d quit working full time, and we were staring very honestly at a decent sized money drought when Wife urged me to say “hell with it” and make the purchase. We were just killing time before picking up the kids after they’re visitations with The Others, and wandering through the touristy shops on the boat harbour, when I saw it.

It called out to me so strongly that I almost ran to it for fear that someone else would step in moments before I got there and decide that they were going to have an impulse buy instead of me. Like some slow-motion movie moment where you can see the humour in the situation but still secretly want to hug the hero, I lunged almost frantically towards it.

Satisfied that I was the first to the hat, I pulled it off the rack and checked the size. Yep, my size. Then I put it on. It fit, and I fell in love. Wife’s jaw dropped and she could only muster some gasps and grunts as she pulled me in front of the mirror. I thought I looked quite alright, and said so out loud, while my wife continued to look at me as if she were about to romance-novel me right there in the store.

So I bought it, and though they probably charged me twice what they should have, I would have paid twice what they asked.

In the weeks following the quitting of my job and my removal from the Rat Race, the hat became a symbol. It was more significant to my life than just having something cool that I always wanted, it was a symbol of my dreams. Wearing it meant that I was doing my own thing and was bound no longer, either monetarily, emotionally, or even physically, to the Man.

I was Free.

I have naturally curly hair and it’s getting quite long. The hat hides its bird’s nestiness in the mornings when I take the kids to school. Even though it flattens out my hair down into my eyes when worn straight after a shower, none of this matters to me. I am my own man in my own favourite hat, and I will give no more of my self and my life for someone else’s capitalistic gains again.

I’m on my own and loving it, and if I go down, at least I’ll go down with my hat on.

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I enjoy reading the local paper if for no other reason than the Real Estate section. Much the same as the toy catalogues of my youth, I flip through and look at the things that I can’t currently possibly afford right along with the things that I’ll never be able to possibly afford, and quite honestly don’t want to. I pretend that I’m doing it because I’m all grown up now and have some working knowledge of the housing market and the likelihood and amount of a bank loan and subsequent mortgage.

Not that I don’t know about these things, but really I’m just dreaming. I used to not want to look at the nice houses, as their price tags only hurt my feelings, and I will ever seek to shield myself from things that hurt my feelings. Again, just like those toy catalogues, I was afraid to look at the big ticket items and dream of owning them.

When enough of the things in your life don’t turn out the way that you figure they should, you become afraid to actually wish for something, because there doesn’t seem to be any way that shit will fly. You learn to take the good things and be thankful for them without inviting further pain, because life will throw enough heartache in your direction without you out there actively seeking it.

Naturally, now that I’m all grown up and all, I don’t prescribe to this theory anymore because adults know better, don’t they?

It took an easing up from the shit of life for a bit for me to actually start applying my dreams to my life. The Real Estate section was my first step. I peruse, I grade and I judge, I price and compare and I consider many of them a viable investment while still others have the potential to be the “end game” house.

My sister-in-law does the same. She and her husband are ever in search of their “end game” house, and while they did indeed coin the phrase and share many of our identical desires and criteria, they are also far, far more capable of purchasing such a thing. It’s actually within their grasp. Regardless of financial capability, it feels nice to discuss features and prices and, for my part at least, pretend and even dream.

Someday, maybe not someday soon, but someday at least, we won’t have to pretend anymore.

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While we were driving up the Brookton Valley to Araluen for Anzac Day, I was noticing the “For Sale” signs and thinking that my sister-in-law probably was too. After enjoying a fabulous day, playing cricket with the kids, eating hot chicken sandwiches, and absorbing the intrinsic beauty that nature and her gardens offer, we drove back down the valley and I thought about what it would mean to live there and have all of that in my own back yard.

There’s a property up there that’s about 12 acres, complete with paddocks and a 3+1 house, and I’m thinking that though the house must be complete shit, thereby making the low price make sense, it probably couldn’t be bad enough for me to NOT want that kind of spread with living accommodations on it. This is where the market isn’t though, as folks don’t want anything that isn’t posh if they’re going to live in the country. No one seems willing to leave their sweet city digs if they can’t be sittin’ just as sweet in the country.

I was born in the country and it’s where I’m meant to be, I care far less about the state of my house as I do with the state of my Nature. I want trees, lots of them, and at least a horse or two, all the dogs I can fit and the wife wants a yard full of chickens.

I want to drive a truck, even a beater, down a dirt lane and up to my house and shop, where I can chop, weld, sand, sculpt, and build to my heart’s content. I want to saddle up my trusty steed and take a wander down to the spring, where we’ll both have a drink and sit and listen to the lack aircraft overhead.

I want to stand in front of my grill, wielding my cooking instruments like a medieval swordsman, drinking a beer and conversing with my wife and kids situated around our oversized kitchen just inside the door. I want those kids to be able to disappear for hours, unhindered by time and fences, and learn as much as they can about the best parts of this world we live in.

I want our favourite evening program to be the sunset and I want Acts of Creation to be just as important as anything else Societally Utilitarian, like grades.

I want to write, paint, sing, and play every day, and I never want to worry about how I’m going to pay the bills again.

I want to look out over my domain and smile with satisfaction.

Someday… I will.

And I’ll be wearing my hat.

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